I've been recently admiring this photo (histogram included as well) and was wondering if you'd have insight as to how it was edited, in ways I can try on Lightroom. I can see the histogram peaks towards the right and would guess the exposure's lifted, and I can see that the highlights aren't blown. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Do you think the blacks and/or shadows were changed? If so, which and in which direction? Same for highlights and lights.

I guess it's high-key but can't quite tell.

I assume the clarity was reduced, as well (but maybe sharpness increased?) – any thoughts?

Also, is there a tone curve you'd recommend to achieve this effect instead/in addition?

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ This image was created by Mirjam Bleeker and is titled "Galleon Beach". You can find it here: cntraveller.com/recommended/beaches/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe it will be beneficial to understand what it is that you admire about this picture. IE, the colours, the blurred background ETC, Once you have broken it down to a more granular level and then listed in order of preference, it will make your job a lot easier to recreate a similar look and feel. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3, 2015 at 11:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please, please, please describe "this photo" and the effect you see in the title. The generic title makes it impossible to distinguish this from any other "how was this done" question, even though the others might be entirely different. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Nov 4, 2015 at 0:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Done! I thought maybe I should refrain from describing it, in case that would confuse people (ie if others wouldn't describe it in the same way). But what I like is the effect of – to me – being very vibrant but also very soft. I like that the palm fronds are so vivid, yet kind of without edges, except where the color fades away – obviously the exposure changed, but would this be a lifting of shadows? Do you think she also lifted the blacks? Is there a way to tell which of those were changed? And the same for highlights and lights, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gemma L
    Nov 4, 2015 at 1:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm – Thoughts? \$\endgroup\$
    – Gemma L
    Nov 7, 2015 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


Without the original, it's hard to tell exactly what she might have corrected. Adjustments I might make to get an image to look like this are:

  1. Boost the exposure to get nice whites (with a part of the white on the signs washed out to maximize my gamut).

  2. Increase the fill light to reduce shadows.

  3. Increase the blacks enough to make the black look black again, and then maybe punch up the fill light a bit more if it doesn't look right yet.

  4. Looks like she's blurred the palm leaves with an adjustment brush (or Photoshop)

  5. Carefully adjust white balance to draw out the right colours

  6. Play with contrast, brightness, and saturation (probably all bumped up, but not necessarily so)

  7. She may have reduced the clarity, or some other property that introduces a little local blur throughout.

She also started with what looks like it was a good picture (composition, subject matter, and lighting).

When doing adjustments like this, every picture can be a little bit different, because what you're doing is representing the image using a little more than the available gamut. If you're not careful it will look hokey. But if you do a good job people can love the image.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "using a little more than the available gamut" Huh??? Lightroom's working space uses Prophoto primaries, so I highly doubt that you'll run into gamut issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – JenSCDC
    Nov 4, 2015 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Andy, there's a difference between working and output images. In the end, your output image will have less gamut than you really want, so as artist you have to decide if you want the image to really pop by selectively going outside available lights and darks, or if you want a lower-contrast image that completely fits inside the gamut. Until I found others do this, I couldn't create images that popped as well as other peoples'. The trick is to know how. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 4, 2015 at 2:45

The saturation was likely manipulated which is especially pronounced in the sky. It is possible that the shadows were lifted and blacks limited but its hard to say with certainty. It also is possible that sharpness was applied but that is very difficult to tell with the resolution and quality that was posted here. I wouldn't consider this a high key image. Overall I wouldn't suggest anything remarkable was done here in post processing beyond heavy handed saturation adjustments.

Here is an example. This image was shot at f/6.3, 1/80sec, ISO 100, with a CPL. The image on the left is the original, and on the right was edited to increase the exposure, fill light, contrast, and saturation: Compare

After creating the example above I decided it was a pretty poor attempt. But in any case I tried so I thought I'd share as it might help you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it is going in the right direction. A bit more of yellow boost. The main issue I have with your example is the halo around the palm trees most likely caused by a lot of clarity, or mid-tone contrast. \$\endgroup\$
    – kamuro
    Nov 3, 2015 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @dpollitt. By blacks limited, do you mean the black point was raised so they're not as pronounced? I assume so but can't quite tell. In your new picture, it seems closer, but that the forms of the various objects are more dictated by black and strong edges than just by washes of color, as the original appears – would that just be a further lifting of the blacks? – Also, thanks for adding the photo credit :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Gemma L
    Nov 4, 2015 at 1:49

I think the highlights have been made darker, but most importantly, contrast was dialed down. I guess -30 out of -50 with the Lightroom contrast slider. Increased saturation and possibly vibrance compensates for this, as the image would otherwise look grey. As mentioned by Peter Bright, the background looks like it's blurred in post processing too, perhaps with Photoshop's lens blur filter.


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